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Working the Social Net

Social networking sounds like a hard concept, but I promise, it’s not. In fact, you’re probably already doing it. Have any profiles anywhere on the web? MySpace? Friendster? LinkedIn? Then you’re already networking. Following, I’ll provide a list of social networking sites and my general impressions of them. I know this is a little more opinion-driven than I usually get on Promo Ho (and for good reason– YOU should be making your marketing decisions, not me!), but I feel like I have something of value to add. So take it or leave it, but I’ll put it out there just in case.

MySpace – It’s a safe bet that most of you have heard of MySpace, probably on the news in the context of some criminal-minded teenager putting his plans for world domination on his MySpace and then getting caught. Admittedly, MySpace seems to attract a younger crowd. On the other hand, it’s a big, biiiig crowd, and they’re not all teenagers. My friend KyAnn Waters puts it this way: Another way to see MySpace… it doesn’t take much more than checking it once a week. Spend thirty minutes a week requesting friends. Think of MySpace as a bulletin board. One of the best things it does is increase your presence in a Google or Yahoo search. It isn’t that you’ll necessarily be looking for ‘real’ friends, (although I have made a few, and sold books I wouldn’t have) but if your cover, reviews, where your book is sold, where you’ll be signing is there, anyone who Googles your name will see your MySpace profile. Easy exposure. I want 10 pages of my name in a Google search so I saturate the net with my name any way I can. Another thing to think about: use as many key words about your writing in your heading and in your content as you can. For example, if you write suspense, when someone does a MySpace search for an author who writers suspense, you want your name to pop up. Suspense, auther, writer, and any other word that helps distinguish you as an author– these are key words that need to be in your profile. If MySpace is your marketing tool, make sure it is working for you.
Pros: Big pool of people
Cons: Tough learning curve, lots of annoying sparkly pictures
Sonja’s MySpace

Facebook – This started off as a network for college students but has now expanded to include anyone. Since it started off as something for college students, there’s a large population of 20-something-and-under people there. Not too many older folks yet. The privacy settings on main profile pages are tough, so I recommend creating a Product Page to advertise yourself. That way people can be your fan on Facebook without you having to let them stalk you. Facebook in general is good for reconnecting with classmates and old friends, especially if you are in the 20-something-and-under demographic. (Old classmates make good book buyers.)
Pros: Clean look, fun to use
Cons: You pretty much have to really know your contacts, unless you’re willing to put yourself up on a product page.
Sonja’s Facebook Page

Bebo – I’m pretty sure Bebo is trying to position itself as MySpace For Dummies, which, frankly, insults me a little… But it’s kind of true. It’s MUCH easier to set up than MySpace, but if you’re web savvy at all, you’ll find the lack of controlability frustrating. It’s also a much smaller network. There’s a pretty slick author area where you can pimp your book and give your book its very own Bebo page.
Pros: Easy peasy, author-friendly
Cons: Not very customizable

Ning – Reader Charlene pointed out Ning for me. I dutifully tried it out this weekend. Seems like it has a lot of potential. The thing about Ning that makes it different from, say, MySpace is that you can join a lot of specific networks, or even make your own network. This has potential if you’re looking for a place for your fan base to gather. This, of course, assumes you have a fan base. Hee.
Pros: Really customizable especially if you want to make your own network
Cons: I imagine you’d have to have a pretty big fan base already to make your own network.

cr8Buzz – This a newish, smaller community that has just opened up for public use after some Beta testing. It encourages user participation by a ranking system wherein you rank people and they are placed within their communities as well as on the site as a whole. Interesting idea, and pretty addictive.
Pros: Easy to use (unless you want a lot of customization), friendly community
Cons: Time-suck! If you’re really obsessed about your rank, you’ll have to do a lot of visiting to the other folks in your community at cre8Buzz.

Eons – For the over 50 crowd, Eons is a cool place to try. MySpace gets the teens, Eons gets the Boomers. Heck, it almost makes me wish I was over 50 so I could hang out there. Almost.
Pros: Super easy, really pretty interface
Cons: If you’re not over 50, you’re out of luck.

Yahoo!360 – The most important reason for setting this up is because this is what people see when they click on your Yahoo! profile link and if you are on any Yahoo! Groups, people will click your profile link. That said, I have to point out that Yahoo!360 is still in Beta, which means they haven’t quite got all the kinks worked out yet.
Pros: Lots of visibility if you’re on Yahoo! Groups already
Cons: Buggy
Sonja’s Yahoo!360

LiveJournal – Yep, most of us just think of LiveJournal as a blogging platform, but if a lot of your friends are already on LiveJournal and using LJ to read their blog feeds, this is a big opportunity for you. You can take your blog RSS feed and turn it into a LJ feed so that your LJ friends can read it. I would recommend doing this if someone hasn’t done it for you already. (Ask one of your LJ friends for help– they know all kinds of cool stuff.)
Pros: More than just a blog platform
Cons: Steep learning curve– Ask a LJ buddy for help
Sonja’s LiveJournal
Sonja’s LJ Blog Feed

LinkedIn – This is mostly a professional networking site, so if you’re working to keep your day job and your author stuff separate, be careful. But why not create a Linked In profile for your pen name? Your writing is a career too. Again, you have to know people to make connections here, but you’d be surprised how many people you know when you think about it.
Pros: Professional networking opportunities
Cons: Life and writing might merge
Sonja’s LinkedIn Profile

43Things/43 Places/43 People/All Consuming – I think these sites are so much fun and I spend way too much time noodling around in here. If you’re a sucker for cool, fun stuff like me and you’re worried about adding more time sinks to your life, back away quickly. But, god, it’s fun. A word of caution: If you’re putting up reviews or entries on any of these sites, be sure you’re only saying stuff that you want associated with your author persona. That goes for all these sites, but it’s easier to forget when you have all these opportunities to post snarky little bits here and there.
Pros: Fun fun fun
Cons: Less networky, more just for fun
Sonja’s 43 Things 43 Places 43 People All Consuming

Amazon.com – We usually don’t think of this as social networking, but if you’re posting reviews and adding friends and being active at all, it’s a social network. Again, be careful what you post in your reviews and make sure it fits with how you want to present your author face to the world.
Pros: You’re probably doing it anyway.
Cons: Easy to say something you shouldn’t in a review
Sonja’s Amazon Profile

Flickr.com – Yep, another one of those sites that you don’t really think of as a social network site, but you can post blogs and add friends, so it technically is a social networking site. I basically use Flickr to store images for my website, but I can see where it might be a good tool if you wanted to give readers some insight into your life. Be sure to set up those privacy settings for the pictures you don’t want them to see though!
Pros: Dual-purpose networking and photo sharing
Cons: Depending on how comfortable you are about your pictures being all over the internet, this could be a bad, bad thing.
Sonja’s Flickr

Fame Source – This one’s still in beta and doesn’t have a specific category for authors and books, but I think it could be made to work for you, with one large stipulation: You’ll need to have media to upload, which probably means a book trailer.
Pros: Looks like it’ll be the go-to spot in a few months
Cons: No specific author marketing, you have to have some kind of media to upload

Gather – Another social networking site, which looks like it’s trying to combine social networking, professional networking, and some kind of online dating service. Whatev.
Pros: I’m not sure how this site is different from any other, but if you’ve already got friends there, it might be good to have a profile.
Cons: The site is buggy. It’s very frustrating.

Whew! Ok, I’m tapped out, but being the Promo Ho that I am, tell me about any social networking sites I’ve missed and I’ll dutifully check them out and report back to you!